A Delicate Sight

Place darkness at the centre of your perception and explore how your senses, thoughts and emotions are heightened with this guided creative experience

A Delicate Sight uses darkness, closed books, unseen pictures and partially heard songs to explore the promise of the imagination.

In 2015 visual artist Sam Winston started using a blacked-out studio to make art in. Winston lived and drew without sight, creating images that were informed by sound, touch and the written word.

‘I started doing a series of drawings in total blackout because I had become interested in how we form relationships to what we can’t see. I would set up the studio a week at a time in darkness and produce a series of drawings whilst not knowing how they were progressing.

‘In 2019 I spent a month living in darkness whilst making a series of artworks. Partly as a way to escape screen culture but also as a way to experience a prolonged period of imagination.’

Sam approached a group of writers – Bernardine Evaristo, Max Porter, Raymond Antrobus and Don Paterson – and asked them to take part in ‘darkness residences’. They each spent a period of time, ranging from a few hours to overnight, in complete blackout. From their experience, they generated drawings, texts and film inspired by their time in the dark.

A Delicate Sight showcases their work and also invites you to explore your own world of heightened senses.

The complete experience will take approximately two hours – so turn off your phone, grab a blindfold and enjoy where the darkness takes you!

Leading writers take up ‘darkness residencies’ for art project (Guardian, May 2020)

Can we escape from information overload? (The Economist, May 2020)


‘Of most importance to me is the, kind of, recapturing of the human, now … just being the fact of a human being breathing in a dark room’ – Max Porter


Step one: Before the dark

Watch: A twenty-minute film about darkness, creativity and life beyond the screen

Featuring Raymond Antrobus, Bernardine Evaristo, Don Paterson, Max Porter and Sam Winston.



‘We’re always dealing with the unpredictable, as artists, aren’t we […]? Even then, we don’t quite know what things are going to be produced, because being a creative artist means that you’re producing magic.’ – Bernardine Evaristo


Listen: Max Porter in conversation with Sam Winston on The Writing Life podcast

Hear visual artist Sam Winston in conversation with Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers and Lanny, about A Delicate Sight and their personal experiences of creating art from darkness.

Max PorterMax Porter’s first novel, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers won the Sunday Times/Peter, Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year, the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the Europese Literatuurprijs and the BAMB Readers’ Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Goldsmiths Prize. Lanny was longlisted for the Booker Prize and was a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller. Twitter

Sam Winston has exhibited his work in museums and galleries around the world. Tate Britain, the British Library, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C and MoMA NYC, among others, hold his artist’s books in their permanent collections. Projects involving drawings, and installations have taken place at institutes such as The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Courtauld Institute of Art, and The Whitechapel Gallery. His first mass-market book in collaboration with Oliver Jeffers won the Bologna Ragazzi Award for fiction, debuted at no.5 on the New York Times Bestseller List and has been translated into 20 languages. Website / Twitter


Step two: In the dark

Listen: A guided activity led by Jarred McGinnis

Now it’s your turn! Jarred McGinnis, writer and a co-founder of the Special Relationship, invites you to explore your own creativity by using some of the techniques that Sam Winston developed to produce his exhibition, A Delicate Sight.

Download the instructions



Jarred McGinnis is the co-founder of The Special Relationship, which was chosen for the British Council’s International Literature Showcase. He was the creative director for ‘Moby-Dick Unabridged‘, a four-day immersive multimedia reading of Herman Melville’s ‘Moby-Dick’ at the Southbank Centre, involving hundreds of participants. His short fiction has been commissioned for BBC Radio 4 and appeared in respected journals in the UK, Canada, USA and Ireland. He is or has been an Associate Writer for Spread the Word, a mentor for the Word Factory, a fellow of the London Library’s T S Eliot Emerging Writer Programme and a Writer-in-Residence for First Story. His debut will be published by Canongate in 2021. He also has a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, but mostly he inspires the able-bodied by using public transport and taking his daughters to the playground. Website


Step three: After the dark

Share what you have created

We’d love for you to share your work with us on social media, using the hashtag #CityofLit20.

Twitter @WritersCentre @samwinston_

Instagram @writerscentre @samwinston_

You can also email your feedback and your work to creative@samwinston.com


‘If I’m able to sit in the dark, with preconceived ideas about what darkness is, which is something to be feared, there’s an empowering or a reclaiming or a renewing of the word and of the experience.’ – Raymond Antrobus


A Delicate Sight was made possible with support from Arts Council England.

Visit A Delicate Sight dot com

A Delicate Sight is a part of City of Literature 2020 – a series of conversations, reflections and connections across one week in May. Presented by the National Centre for Writing and Norfolk & Norwich Festival.